NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Statements reaffirming the nominee for president of the North American Mission Board have been issued by the chairman of the Southern Baptist entity’s trustees and the chairman of the search team.
A second state Baptist convention executive, meanwhile, has joined David E. Hankins of Louisiana in expressing opposition to the nominee, Kentucky pastor Kevin Ezell.
Hankins, executive director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention, issued a three-page open letter to trustees of the North American Mission Board on Sept. 9, voicing opposition to any nominee for NAMB president with a “poor record” of support for Southern Baptists’ Cooperative Program channel of missions and ministry along with another key source of NAMB funding, the annual Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions.
Hankins, former vice president for Cooperative Program with the SBC Executive Committee, also wrote that Ezell, as pastor of the multi-campus Highview Baptist Church in Louisville, leads a congregation that falls short of the Great Commission Resurgence report as adopted during the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting in June, which included affirmation of the Cooperative Program “as the most effective means of mobilizing our churches and extending our outreach.”
NAMB’s trustee chairman, Georgia pastor Tim Dowdy, issued a statement Sept. 10 noting:
“The members of our search committee were drawn to Kevin Ezell because it is clear that he has a heart for SBC missions and a heart for reaching North America for Christ. This passion has been demonstrated through the millions of dollars he has led his church to give to church planting and other Southern Baptist mission causes in the years he has been at Highview.
“I realize there is an ongoing discussion among Southern Baptists about how we can best express our passion for missions through our giving,” Dowdy said, “and I am sure that will be part of our discussion this Tuesday [Sept. 14] when our trustees meet to discuss Kevin’s nomination.
“Kevin has been a loyal Southern Baptist and I believe he will help NAMB continue to work through the long-standing partnerships we have had and help us build new partnerships and new ways of taking Christ to North America,” said Dowdy, pastor of Eagle’s Landing First Baptist Church in McDonough, Ga., and an ex officio member of the presidential search team.
Ezell, 48, is the immediate past president of the Southern Baptist Pastors’ Conference, a former chairman of the SBC Committee on Committees and a former member of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s trustee board. He holds a master of divinity degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Texas and a doctor of ministry degree from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville. He has led Highview Baptist Church since 1996.
Florida pastor Ted Traylor, who chaired the trustees’ seven-member search team, stated to Baptist Press:
“Our team finds Dr. Ezell to be a loyal Southern Baptist mission supporter. I reject the accusation that he is an independent Baptist. Indiana Baptists [where Highview has a campus] do not see him as independent in his giving model. The Southern Seminary students in whom he invests time and money do not see him as independent. The church planting workers in the New York Convention do not assess his work as independent.
“I am convinced Dr. Ezell can build NAMB into the mission agency Southern Baptists will be thrilled to support,” said Traylor, pastor of Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola.
Emil Turner, executive director of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention, is the exec who affirmed Hankins’ call for NAMB trustees to reconsider the search committee’s recommendation.
“Dr. Hankins has a gracious and kind assessment of the situation and he is also clearly logical,” Turner said in a Sept. 10 news article in the Arkansas Baptist News.
“It seems surprising to me that the search committee would recommend someone whose level of support for the North American Mission Board through the CP and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering could not sustain the work of NAMB were it to be duplicated widely across the convention,” Turner said.
“While I have met Dr. Ezell and been impressed with his personality and his preaching,” Turner said, “I would hope that the new president of NAMB could be an example of commitment to the Cooperative Program as called for by the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force and to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering.”
NAMB trustees’ Sept. 14 meeting to consider Ezell’s nomination will be held at an Atlanta-area hotel.
Hankins, in his open letter to NAMB’s trustees, stated, “This is not meant as a personal attack on Dr. Ezell. I would have the same concern about any candidate for NAMB who had a similarly poor record” of supporting Southern Baptists’ Cooperative Program channel of missions and ministry along with another key source of NAMB funding, the annual Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions.
“There are many excellent pastors with an SBC affiliation who have chosen to go a more independent route with their churches’ mission spending,” Hankins wrote. “I am thankful for every success they have brought to the Kingdom but I believe, by their negligible cooperative denominational giving, they have removed themselves from consideration as SBC entity leaders….
“I am concerned that a NAMB president who has chosen the independent model will send a chilling message to the thousands of Southern Baptist congregations who have been led by their pastors and their denomination to believe that generous support for our cooperative mission funding processes is the good and right thing to do,” Hankins wrote.
Information from the 2009 Annual Church Profile maintained by LifeWay Christian Resources lists 121 baptisms at Highview Baptist Church and primary worship service attendance of 3,260. Highview gave $140,100, or 2.23 percent, through the Cooperative Program from undesignated receipts of $6,270,057. Its total missions expenditures of $1,350,107 includes $50,000 for the Lottie Moon Christian Offering for International Missions and $10,000 for the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions.
Art Toalston is editor of Baptist Press. To read the Baptist Press story Sept. 1 on Kevin Ezell’s nomination as North American Mission Board president, including the full text of the letter by trustee chairman Tim Dowdy setting forth his and others’ comments about Ezell, go to http://www.bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?id=33619. To read the Baptist Press story Sept. 9 on David Hankins’ open letter to NAMB’s trustees, including the full text of his opposition to the nomination, go to http://www.bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?id=33656.